Indicator Assessment

Electricity production by fuel

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-124-en
  Also known as: ENER 027
Published 05 Jul 2010 Last modified 11 May 2021
19 min read
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Fossil fuels and nuclear energy continue to dominate the fuel mix for electricity production despite their environmental impact. This impact was reduced during the 1990s with relatively clean natural gas becoming the main choice of fuel for new plants, in particular at the expense of oil. Production from coal and lignite has increased slightly in recent years. The steep increase in overall electricity production has also counteracted some of the environmental benefits from fuel switching.

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Share of electricity production by fuel type, 1990-2006 (%), EU-27

Note: Data for Germany in 1990 include West Germany only

Data source:


Share of electricity production by fuel type, EU-27, 2020

Note: N/A

Data source:


Share of electricity production by fuel type in 2006

Note: The share of renewables above refers to production and therefore it does not necessarily match exactly the share

Data source:

EEA. Eurostat. IEA

Gross electricity production by fuel, EU-27

Note: Data shown are for gross electricity production and include electricity production from both public and auto-producers

Data source:

Eurostat (Historic data)

The contribution of different fuels in electricity production is an important parameter regarding emissions and the security of supply. Decisions concerning the use of nuclear energy are up to Member States: the principle of subsidiarity grants member states broad autonomy in deciding their energy mix. However, the Commission has set specific targets for the use of renewable energy (COM(2008)19).

Electricity production from fossil fuels continues to dominate total electricity production, with a share of almost 54 % in 2006, despite the recognised environmental impacts such as emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and resource depletion. Natural gas, which causes less overall pollution than other fossil fuels, was the primary choice for new fossil-fired power plants over the general period 1990-2006 - although this was driven mainly by economic concerns. This fuel switching was one of the factors leading to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from public power generation over the period. However, with an increase in natural gas prices relative to coal since 1999 (IEA, 2005) as well as a decrease in hydro electricity production since 2002 due to low rainfall, the use of coal has increased in recent years and hence GHG emissions from public power generation have begun to rise again [the share of coal in electricity production remains more or less constant, but because of the general increase in electricity-use, in absolute terms since 1999 the use of coal has increased].

The share of electricity produced from gas has risen by a factor of nearly 3 in the EU-27 between 1990 and 2006. This growth has been influenced by the liberalisation of electricity markets and implementation of environmental legislation, such as the Large Combustion Plant Directive and the requirements for investing in pollution abatement technologies to lower emissions of air pollutants such as SO2 and NOx (see EN09 for more information). However, the primary factor was economic, with low gas prices for much of the 1990s and the rapid investment in transportation infrastructure for the delivery of gas from within and outside the EU, which has also assisted its progress.

Electricity produced from coal and lignite accounted for 28.7 % of EU-27 electricity production in 2006, falling from 37.3 % in 1990. After a high experienced in 2003, production from coal and lignite decreased between 2003 and 2005 before stabilising in 2006. Whether it will increase or decrease into the future will depend upon the long-term cost of gas, which is linked closely to the price of oil and has risen considerably in recent years. It will also depend upon national initiatives and environmental legislation such as the aforementioned LCPD, and in particular the EU greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme ((2003/87/EC); COM(2008)16) which favours a shift to less carbon intensive fuels for electricity generation, such as gas, as well as improvements in generating efficiency.

Electricity produced from nuclear fuels continued to grow in absolute terms from the 1990s through to 2004 in the EU-27, after which it started to decrease. Its share of total production fell slightly to 29.5 % in 2006 compared to 30.2 % in 2005. This decline is due to the fact that few new nuclear plants have been commissioned in recent years to replace those reaching the end of their lives. However, as outlined in EN 13, in recent years a shift can be seen towards building new Nuclear Power Plants (for instance in the UK, the Baltic States and Sweden, as well as the commissioning of a new reactor in Finland) and the extension of life times of existing NPP's (for instance in the Netherlands). Furthermore, the European Commission has put forward the importance of nuclear energy as one of the opportunities to combat climate change, and it is one of the main "technology avenues" in the SET Plan.

Total renewable energy sources contributed 14.6 % to gross electricity production in the EU-27 in 2006, but this share has increased by only 2.0 percentage points since 1990. Substantial growth will be required to meet the indicative EU target of a 21 % share of renewable electricity in gross electricity consumption by 2010. For a detailed description of past and future trends in renewable energy, see EN30 and EN29.

The fuel mix for electricity production in the new EU Member States is rather different to the EU-15 due to historic and economic reasons. The traditional electricity industries in the region were originally vertically integrated monopolies controlled by central governments, resulting in a large share of coal/lignite and nuclear in the electricity production.

Overall, fuel switching within electricity production has made a benefit to the environment. However, this trend has slowed in recent years. A significant portion of these benefits has been counteracted by the rapid increase in overall final electricity consumption of about 31.4 %  from 1990 to 2006 (see EN18) leading to an increase in overall electricity production of 34.9 % over the same period.


All projections indicate a decrease in coal and lignite and oil. The largest relative decrease of coal and lignite is indicated by the GHG Reduction scenario from Poles and the Alternative Policy scenario's form the IEA. These scenarios also show a large increase in the relative nuclear energy consumption. The GHG reduction scenario focuses mainly on nuclear and natural gas, the Alternative policy scenario on renewables.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

Total gross electricity generation covers gross electricity generation in all types of power plants. The gross electricity generation at the plant level is defined as the electricity measured at the outlet of the main transformers. i.e. the consumption of electricity in the plant auxiliaries and in transformers is included.

Electricity production by fuel is the gross electricity generation from plants utilising the following fuels: coal and lignite. oil. nuclear. natural and derived gas. renewables (wind. hydro. biomass and waste. solar PV and geothermal) and other fuels. The latter include electricity produced from power plants not accounted for elsewhere such as those fuelled by certain types of industrial wastes which are not classed as renewable. Other fuels also include the electricity produced as a result of pumping in hydro power stations.

The share of each fuel in electricity production is taken as the ratio of electricity production from the relevant category against total gross electricity generation. It should be noted that the share of renewable electricity in this indicator, based on production, is not directly comparable with the share required under Directive 2001/77/EC which is based upon the share of renewables in electricity consumption. The difference between both shares is accounted for by the net balance between imports and exports of electricity and by how much domestic electricity generation is increased or reduced as a result.


Electricity generation is measured in either GWh or TWh (1000 GWh)



Policy context and targets

Context description

Environmental context

The indicator shows the evolution of the shares of electricity production from different fuels in total gross electricity production and aims to indicate to what extent there has been a decarbonisation of the electricity production in Europe. Electricity production from fossil fuels (such as crude oil, oil products, hard coal, lignite and natural and derived gas) has a number of negative effects on the environment and human health , CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution levels (e.g. SO2 and NOX), water pollution and biodiversity loss. These effects are fuel-specific : for instance, natural gas, for instance, has approximately 40 % less carbon than coal per unit of energy content, and 25 % less carbon content than oil, and contains only marginal quantities of sulphur (see ENER26). There are other environmental pressures coming from energy production: air pollution, land –use changes and crop-escape (that could result in large scale introduction of invasive species) from biomass, surface and groundwater pollution, ecosystem services and biodiversity loss, etc. The pressure on the environment and human health from energy consumption can be diminished by decreasing energy consumption and switching to energy sources that have a lower impact on the environment and human health.

While nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollution over the life cycle compared to conventional sources, there is a risk of accidental radioactive releases, and highly radioactive waste (for which no generally acceptable disposal route has yet been established) is accumulating.

 The efficiency with which electricity is produced also determines the scale of the environmental impacts of electricity production and consumption (see ENER19), as it determines the amount of input fuel required to generate a given quantity of electricity.

The impact also depends upon the total amount of electricity demanded and hence the level of electricity production required (see ENER18 for more details on electricity consumption). Thus another way of reducing energy-related pressures on the environment includes using less electricity on the demand-side, through improved efficiency, conservation or a combination of the two.

Policy context

A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 (COM(2011) 112 final)
Presents a roadmap for action in line with a 80-95% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050.

Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy (COM(2010) 639 final)
Presents the five priorities of the new energy strategy defined by the Commission.

Council adopted on 6 April 2009 the climate-energy legislative package containing measures to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. This package is designed to achieve the EU's overall environmental target of a 20 % reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 % share of renewable energy in the EU's total energy consumption by 2020.The climate action and renewable energy (CARE) package includes the following main policy documents:

  • Directive 2009/29/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community
  • Directive 2009/31/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide
  • Directive 2009/28/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
  • Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
  • Directive 2008/101/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas Emission allowance trading within the community
  • Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles

Second Strategic Energy Review; COM(2008) 781 final
Strategic review on short, medium and long term targets on EU energy security.


    No targets have been specified

    Related policy documents

    • 2008/c 82/01
      Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
    • 2009/31/EC
      Directive 2009/31/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide.
    • COM(2008) 781
      COM(2008) 781 final - Second Strategic Energy Review
    • COM(2010) 639 final: Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy
      A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy
    • COM(2011) 112 - A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050
      With its "Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050" the European Commission is looking beyond these 2020 objectives and setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by mid-century as agreed by European Heads of State and governments. It shows how the sectors responsible for Europe's emissions - power generation, industry, transport, buildings and construction, as well as agriculture - can make the transition to a low-carbon economy over the coming decades.
    • DIRECTIVE 2008/101/EC
      DIRECTIVE 2008/101/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 19 November 2008 amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community
    • DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC
      DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC
    • Directive 2009/29/EC
      Directive 2009/29/EC of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/EC so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community.
      Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.


    Methodology for indicator calculation

    Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year/base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100

    Share of electricity production by fuel calculated as ratio of electricity production by fuel type to total gross electricity generation.
    The coding (used in the Eurostat database) for the gross electricity generation is :

    Coal fired power stations:

    • Anthracite : main electricity activity 22_108501, main activity CHP 22_108502, autoproducers electricity 22_108503, autoproducers CHP 22_108504
    • Coking coal : main electricity activity 22_108511, main activity CHP 22_108512, autoproducers electricity 22_108513, autoproducers CHP 22_108514
    • Bituminous : main electricity activity 22_108521, main activity CHP 22_108522, autoproducers electricity 22_108523, autoproducers CHP 22_108524
    • Sub Bituminous : main electricity activity 22_108531, main activity CHP 22_108532, autoproducers electricity 22_108533, autoproducers CHP 22_108534
    • Lignite/brown coal : main electricity activity 22_108541, main activity CHP 22_108542, autoproducers electricity 22_108543, autoproducers CHP 22_108544
    • Peat : main electricity activity 22_108551, main activity CHP 22_108552, autoproducers electricity 22_108553, autoproducers CHP 22_108554
    • Patent fuel : main electricity activity 22_108561, main activity CHP 22_108562, autoproducers electricity 22_108563, autoproducers CHP 22_108564
    • Coke oven coke: main electricity activity 22_108571, main activity CHP 22_108572, autoproducers electricity 22_108573, autoproducers CHP 22_108574
    • Gas coke : main electricity activity 22_108581, main activity CHP 22_108582, autoproducers electricity 22_108583, autoproducers CHP 22_108584
    • Coal tar : main electricity activity 22_108591, main activity CHP 22_108592, autoproducers electricity 22_108593, autoproducers CHP 22_108594
    • BKB/briquettes : main electricity activity 22_108601, main activity CHP 22_108602, autoproducers electricity 22_108603, autoproducers CHP 22_108604

    Oil fired power stations:

    • Crude oil : main electricity activity 22_108701, main activity CHP 22_108702, autoproducers electricity 22_108703, autoproducers CHP 22_108704
    • NGL (Natural Gas Liquid) : main electricity activity 22_108711, main activity CHP 22_108712, autoproducers electricity 22_108713, autoproducers CHP 22_108714
    • Refinery gas : main electricity activity 22_108721, main activity CHP 22_108722, autoproducers electricity 22_108723, autoproducers CHP 22_108724
    • LPG : main electricity activity 22_108731, main activity CHP 22_108732, autoproducers electricity 22_108733, autoproducers CHP 22_108734
    • Naphta: main electricity activity 22_108741, main activity CHP 22_108742, autoproducers electricity 22_108743, autoproducers CHP 22_108744
    • Kerozene type jet fuel: main electricity activity 22_108751, main activity CHP 22_108752, autoproducers electricity 22_108753, autoproducers CHP 22_108754
    • Other Kerozene: main electricity activity 22_108761, main activity CHP 22_108762, autoproducers electricity 22_108763, autoproducers CHP 22_108764
    • Gas/diesel oil: main electricity activity 22_108771, main activity CHP 22_108772, autoproducers electricity 22_108773, autoproducers CHP 22_108774
    • Residual fuel oil: main electricity activity 22_108781, main activity CHP 22_108782, autoproducers electricity 22_108783, autoproducers CHP 22_108784
    • Bitumen: main electricity activity 22_108791, main activity CHP 22_108792, autoproducers electricity 22_108793, autoproducers CHP 22_108794
    • Petroleum coke: main electricity activity 22_108801, main activity CHP 22_108802, autoproducers electricity 22_108803, autoproducers CHP 22_108804
    • Other oil products: main electricity activity 22_108811, main activity CHP 22_108812, autoproducers electricity 22_108813, autoproducers CHP 22_108814

    Natural gas fired power stations:

    • main electricity activity 22_108891, main activity CHP 22_108892, autoproducers electricity 22_108893, autoproducers CHP 22_108894

    Derived gas fired power stations

    • Gas works gas : main electricity activity 22_108611, main activity CHP 22_108612, autoproducers electricity 22_108613, autoproducers CHP 22_108614
    • Coke oven gas : main electricity activity 22_1086211, main activity CHP 22_108622, autoproducers electricity 22_108623, autoproducers CHP 22_108624
    • Blast furnace gas : main electricity activity 22_108631, main activity CHP 22_108632, autoproducers electricity 22_108633, autoproducers CHP 22_108634
    • Oxygen steel furnace gas : main electricity activity 22_108641, main activity CHP 22_108642, autoproducers electricity 22_108643, autoproducers CHP 22_108644

    Biomass fired power stations

    • Industrial wastes : main electricity activity 22_108901, main activity CHP 22_108902, autoproducers electricity 22_108903, autoproducers CHP 22_108904
    • Municipal wastes (renewable): main electricity activity 22_108911, main activity CHP 22_108912, autoproducers electricity 22_108913, autoproducers CHP 22_108914
    • Municipal wastes (non-renewable): main electricity activity 22_108921, main activity CHP 22_108922, autoproducers electricity 22_108923, autoproducers CHP 22_108924
    • Wood, wood wastes and other solid fuels: main electricity activity 22_108931, main activity CHP 22_108932, autoproducers electricity 22_1089313, autoproducers CHP 22_108934
    • Landfill gas: main electricity activity 22_108941, main activity CHP 22_108942, autoproducers electricity 22_1089343, autoproducers CHP 22_108944
    • Sludge gas: main electricity activity 22_108951, main activity CHP 22_108952, autoproducers electricity 22_1089353, autoproducers CHP 22_108954
    • Other biogas: main electricity activity 22_108961, main activity CHP 22_108962, autoproducers electricity 22_1089363, autoproducers CHP 22_108964
    • Other liquid biofuels: main electricity activity 22_108971, main activity CHP 22_108972, autoproducers electricity 22_1089373, autoproducers CHP 22_108974


    • Main electricity from photovoltaic 14_1070421, main solar thermal 14_1070422, autoproducers solar 14_1070423

    Pumped hydro

    • Main electricity from pumped hydro 15_107036, autoproducers pumped hydro 14_107037


    • Main electricity activity 15_107030, main activity CHP 15_107031, autoproducers electricity 15_107032, autoproducers CHP 15_107033

    It should be noted that in the Eurostat database ‘Other fuels – 107012’ also includes ‘gross production from photovoltaic systems - 107023’ and although almost negligible in overall terms it has been subtracted from 107012 in the calculation of the indicator.
    For the denominator, where required: total gross electricity generation 107000

    Geographical coverage:
    The Agency had 32 member countries at the time of writing of this fact sheet. These are the 27 European Union Member States and Turkey plus the EFTA countries (Iceland, Switzerland and Norway). Liechtenstein and Iceland are not anymore covered separately by Eurostat

    Temporal coverage:

    Methodology and frequency of data collection:
    Data collected annually.Eurostat definitions and concepts for energy statistics

      Methodology for gap filling

      No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

      Methodology references

      No methodology references available.



      Methodology uncertainty

      Biomass and wastes, as defined by Eurostat, cover organic, non-fossil material of biological origin, which may be used for heat production or electricity generation. They comprise wood and wood waste, Biogas, municipal solid waste (MSW) and biofuels. MSW comprises biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes produced by different sectors. Non-biodegradable municipal and solid wastes are not considered to be renewable, but current data availability does not allow the non-biodegradable content of wastes to be identified separately, except for that from industry.

      Also, electricity data (unlike that for overall energy consumption) for 1990 refers to the western part of Germany only.

      Electricity consumption within the national territory includes imports of electricity from neighbouring countries. It also excludes the electricity produced nationally but exported abroad. In some countries the contribution of electricity trade to total electricity consumption and the changes observed from year to year need to be looked at carefully when analysing trends in electricity production by fuel. Impacts on the (national) environment are also affected since emissions are accounted where the electricity is produced whereas consumption is accounted where the electricity is consumed

      Data sets uncertainty

      Data has been traditionally compiled by Eurostat through the annual Joint Questionnaires, shared by Eurostat and the International Energy Agency, following a well established and harmonised methodology. Methodological information on the annual Joint Questionnaires and data compilation can be found in Eurostat's web page for metadata on energy statistics.

      Rationale uncertainty

      No uncertainty has been specified

      Data sources

      Other info

      DPSIR: Driving force
      Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
      Indicator codes
      • ENER 027
      Frequency of updates
      This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
      EEA Contact Info


      Geographic coverage





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      Filed under: energy
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